Steven Ogilvie: Full Interview

Duration 54:05


Photos used by kind permission of Steven Ogilvie. 


Steven Ogilvie
Interview by Steven Skelley
19 October 2017

SS: Right, we’re recording now. It’s the 19th October 2017. This is an oral history interview for Wakefield Museum Service. I’m Steven Skelley, a Collections Officer at the Museum, and this interview forms part of an Arts Council funded project and it’s also part of Wakefield Museum’s first LGBT exhibition, The Rainbow Trail. I’m here to interview Steven Ogilvie, who lives in Wakefield and has worked at several LGBT spaces in the city. Steven is best known for his alter ego Madam Connie, a Wakefield drag artist of some repute. So, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed Steven. I think I’m gonna start with: please could you tell me what it was like growing up in Wakefield, and that’s perhaps from a gay perspective, is what I’m aiming at.

SO: Oh well, I mean, I always knew right from being young I were always gay – always knew that. I can always remember being round about five year old walking round town and looking more at men than w- than girls, than women. Especially, being five year old, sort of the groin area, in a strange way. But yeah, I mean, but I always felt different, really different, always felt different, always have done. But it were, I mean, I never had any problems, until I started school, really. I started school and I just couldn’t bond with me- with boys at all, just couldn’t bond with boys, I always hung round with girls. And they were always – I can always remember from being about six year old there were one lad at school that used to bully me, and I always felt, well why, cos y’know I’ve tried my best to get on with people, and then it just seemed just more naturally to hang round with girls than boys, really. But growing up, it never – I mean, I had really good parents, very good parents, fantastic parents who always – who always loved me [unclear word] and I always felt different, even with me brother – me brother’s five year older than me and me brother were one of these, used to like to wrestle, used to like to act like a – act like a real tough lad. I used to just sorta [meekly] ‘don’t hit me!’ type [laughs] And then, he used to always wind me up, and I remember one time he wound me up and wound me up that much that I were – I were playing with me Spirograph, in the room, and I literally stabbed his foot with a pen. Literally through his foot, cos he’d wound me up that much. And he never wound me up after that that much, strangely enough.

But yeah – I mean, but I’ve never really had any problems growing up until then of course then I moved on to being a bit more of a teenager. And, the schools we used to go to, I mean, I lived in Lupset Estate, which is a bit of a rough area. And as we got older I went to Thornes House, I didn’t go to Thornes House School, sorry, I went to Snapethorpe School and then when we were ready to go to Thornes House, which were a really rough reputation school, a few people had tried to kill themselves in there. I mean, me mam and dad said, ‘we’re not gonna send you there because you’re a bit delicate’. Right, I thought, ‘delicate?’ ‘It’s a bit too, y’know, it’s a bit too rough for you’. So they decided to send me to Eastmoor High School [now Wakefield City High School], which – well, as I’ll explain as I go on. But the weird thing is, because obviously I’d made a lot of friends, cos we’d all come from Lupset Estate so and everybody went to Thornes House, at 12, 13 year old they moved me from being with all me friends to a school where I knew nobody at all and they had all their friends there and they could tell straight away that I was sort of different. And it were like, I just got to much hassle and so much grief. I’d no friends. I‘d no nothing. I literally had a year in that school and me being on me own, bullied, smacked, kicked, picked on. Couldn’t make friends with anybody, apart – once again – apart from a bunch of girls. And it were just – it were just terrible, absolutely, but I mean I couldn’t go home and tell me mam and dad because they thought they’d done the best thing by moving. The problem was, also when I got home from school then, all my friends that I had in Lupset, because I wasn’t at their school, wouldn’t hang round with me anymore. So I’d no friends. And it were absolutely terrible.

So, I sort of thought, well what do I do, where do I turn? And I got to the stage where I were literally skipping school, I just would not go to school because I felt that bad. And one day, I were skiving school, I went into t’ Thornes Park, and I were in Forms Park and I mean there were lots of public toilets in them days, in 1970s – went in there, and I’ll have been about… 14 year old? And sort of this, something happened with this man and I thought, ‘ooo’, y’know. But I honestly thought that was the only way you could have a – y’know, and I thought ‘I quite like this’. I mean, I’d never done anything until then, only with some coupla friends at school, but, and I thought well, it’s just, y’know I thought ‘this –‘ and it got to the stage where I thought that, because I were so badly tret at school I used to not go to school and I used to just go round parks, or go round – and, which, I know it sounds bad but, to me that were better than going to school. And I were getting attention, in a way, so and it were just – and then I were so withdrawn in meself but I were trying to go home and I were trying to influence me parents, trying to be sensible and y’know trying to withhold the fact that they’d done the best thing, but I were just so lonely on me own, it were just really sad and lonely. But, and then all of a sudden when I did – I used to go to school every now and again.

So like I said, no friends, and in second year at school, in high school, I were 14, 14 and a half, and I were in a music lesson one day, and I always remember, I were in a music lesson and headmaster come in and shouted me name, and said ‘Steven Ogilvie, stand up’ and I went what, and he says, ‘we’ve got this new boy starting school and we want you to introduce him to school’. So I says, ‘oh alright’, but I presume they done that cos knowing that I were sort of on my own, and it were a lad that – which I won’t mention his name – but he were, and I mean, he were lovely, I mean, and it turned out, it actually turned out years later he were actually related to me, it turned out he were sort of a cousin of a cousin. And, I got to know him, and he were a bit of a jack-the-lad so in a way I then started to get in with the jack-the-lad groups, so I used to go round t’smoking area and I didn’t used to smoke but I’d stand wit’ smokers cos it were cool – and really got to know him, really liked him. But liked him a bit more than I shoulda liked him, I think. And then one particular day, we were sort of messing about, like you do, and it turned out that certain things happened and we got, I mean, I suppose you could say he were t’first love of me life really, when I were 15 year old.

And we decided at 15 that we were gonna come out at school, that were 1978. And in 1978, to do that at school is a very big thing, especially the way I’d already been tret at school. So, we decided to come out, so and I thought, well if I’m gonna come out at school I’m gonna have to come out at home as well, so I went home, struggled with it and struggled with it, decided I’m gonna have to tell me mam and dad, so sat ‘em down, there were me mam, me dad and me brother. Sat and told ‘em at 15 year old that I were gay. Me mam just looked at me and went, ‘well, I knew what you were gonna be from two year old’, she says, so she says, ‘I’ve nothing at all’, y’know, she says, ‘I knew what you were gonna be’ she says, but she says, ‘you do realise that it’s gonna be hard don’t you?’ And she says, but she says, ‘I knew what you were gonna be’, she says, ‘I didn’t expect any different’, she says, ‘I knew straight away’. Me dad literally just turned round and said, ‘that’s your decision, I don’t want to hear any more about it. You’ve decided that’s what you wanna be, I don’t wanna know’. Me brother spent two years sleeping on the sofa cos we shared a bedroom [laughs]. Even though me brother is now one of me most fantastic fans ever. But yeah, he literally spent two year on the bedroom, I don’t know why – on the sofa, cos I don’t know why, I think he must’ve thought I were gonna molest him or something [laughs] – oh god, if you saw my brother, no way! [laughs] But, I never even bothered telling me sister, cos me sister were seven year younger than me so I thought well it’s no good telling me sister anyway, but that were it, really.

And – well I thought that were it, then we went, but when we went back to school, and we told everybody at school, the t- - I mean in 1978, you’ve got to consider, you’d never get away with it now, we weren’t allowed to do any more physical games with t’boys in t’changing rooms or anything, we weren’t allowed to get – when they used to do PE, we used to have to sit outside the headmaster’s office because we weren’t allowed to go into the changing rooms – not that that bothered me, because I didn’t wanna do games anyway cos I were always beaten up and bullied anyway, but yeah, we weren’t allowed to do anything like that, anything physical or anything, it were really weird. I mean, you’d never get away with it now, never. Well, I don’t think you would, but we were segregated, we were literally segregated when it – any sort of things that involved just boys, we were, had to sit outside the headmaster’s office, which we found very bizarre, very strange – I mean, it didn’t bother us at all, but.

SS: Did anyone else say anything about that, or was it not spoken about?

SO: It were never spoken about, never – I mean, I never told that to me mam and dad, anyway, never said a word about it but, or to anybody else, and I mean David lived with his sister at the time, so, and because he’d been put into care and then he lived with his sister and his sister, he just, he never bothered telling his sister and that, so it just, it were just a little bit, really it were just strange. But yeah, it were really weird, but we never… the weird thing is, after we sort of come out, and because we hung around with a bit of a rougher gang because they went, because of hanging round with David, it was – it wasn’t as bad. We seemed – they seemed to lay off us a bit more. But until then it, I mean, growing up were absolute murder.

But then I left school, and – the weird thing is, that when I left school, then I started work, and I felt like I were back at school because I daredn’t tell people that I were gay. And it were just like, trying to be part of t’gang, and I worked in a warehouse, part of t’gang, trying to be lads. And then when I were 17, when I left school, one time I actually I used to – then, the norm, to me, that’s the only way I could meet people, were going round toilets going cottaging, picking people up, and having sex – or even just talking, I mean it were a bit more like a community because you used to meet people and you used to get to know ‘em and you used to hang round talking and bitching about stuff. But I mean, this particular time, at the old market house toilets in Wakefield, I were messing about with this fella, never thinking owt about it. Came out, two policemen arrested me. I were only 17, at the time, so and it were like ‘urgh’. And I just didn’t wanna, I mean obviously I were just dreading it, cos when I were 17 I only looked 15, I looked so young, and so they wouldn’t believe I were 17, so and then so they turned up, two month after, at my house, at me mam and dad’s house, and I’d never told me mam and dad about it, and it were like, and they turn – I can always remember, we were watching Top of the Pops and Cliff Richard were on, bizarrely enough, there you go, but that’s a different story [laughs]

SS: It’s a different story, yes! [laughter]

SO: But and these two fellas walked up the path and me mam says, ‘who are these fellas, they look a bit like policemen from t’window’, and as soon as she said that I jumped up. And they said we’re gonna have to verify how old you are. But, to me, they had the biggest smirk on their face, and to me it felt like it were basically, ‘fuck you!’ type thing, we’re gonna embarrass you, because they knew that I wasn’t gonna say nowt, and they said, ‘oh it’s gonna have t’go t’director of public prosecutions to decided whether to go to court’. I were 17 year old. And, we lived in a cul-de-sac as well, so that didn’t help, but and it were absolute, it went on for about six months before they decided that it were gonna go to court and they decided to take it to court. And it was in the Wakefield Express and everything after they’d done it, I were 17 year old and I got fined £100 in 1978. I mean, imagine how much – for your first offence. And it explained that it were gross indecency and everything and I had to walk through a cul-de-sac every day to go to work. Went to work and – I were hoping it wasn’t gonna be in the Express and it turned out it was and it were like, oh it were absolute murder – absolute murder. But –

SS: So that was one of the worst times?

SO: It was, it was, but it wasn’t in a strange way, because that really made me who I am, in a strange way, because it just got to the stage where I thought, ‘I live in a cul-de-sac, it’s 1978 verging on 1979’ – and a lot of the children I grew up with still lived in that cul-de-sac as well and it were a case of every time I used to walk down – I mean, me mam and dad were fantastic, cos they must’ve had some right mess, really must have had some right grief, because I can always remember walking down this one particular time and all the kids were stood there singing, ‘Brown boy up your ring, tra-la-la-la-la’. And, with me mam and dad, and I’m thinking, they never batted an eyelid, never batted an eyelid, and it got to the stage where I thought, ‘right, this is where I’m gonna rebel now’.

And it was at the time of punk and new romantics, and I thought, ‘right’. I went out, on the second-hand market, I thought, ‘I’m gonna show you exactly what I think about you lot’, and it – went home, and the next day, the next coupla weeks, I turned into Wakefield’s answer to Boy George, within the next coupla week. I thought, ‘right’, and I used to walk round that cul-de-sac, dressed in thermal underwear, big frilly shirts, fabulous big pink hair, stilettos, made up to the nines. My mam and dad used to despair, but nobody dare say a word. And I used to be covered in all these brooches and everything, and I used to be stood at bus stop – I mean me mam and dad still used to be stood with me, bless ‘em – the only time they said no were when I died it orange they thought it looked a bit too ginger. But I used to have all these old women going, ‘oh I love that brooch, where’d you get that brooch from, that’s really nice’. But it were literally, but I thought no it’s time to rebel, I thought, ‘if you’re gonna treat me like this, I am gonna treat you twice as bad’. And it got to the stage where I just thought, ‘two fingers up to you’. And then when I were 18, 19 I discovered the New York Bar in Wakefield.

SS: Where was the New York Bar, can I ask?

SO: It was just behind where the bus station is. It was Wakefield’s ‘fun bar’, it was called a fun bar, cos it daren’t say it were a gay bar. And it were literally tambourines, people dancin’ on t’bars, it’s well renowned, it’s well renowned is t’New York Bar. And I walked in there one night, and by this time the lad that I were seeing had moved on, he’d moved to Bolton and moved away. I didn’t know where he’d moved, he’d just moved away, cos we’d fallen out and that were that. Cos I don’t think he could handle all the hassle of what were going on. And so I walked in the New York Bar one night, with some friends from work, and I thought, ‘mmmmm’, I thought, ‘I’ll remember this place’. And that were it then, I just thought, ‘right’ so I were there nearly every night and still, a lot of people I know in the New York Bar still come in the New Union now where I work. And it were just one of these places, the atmosphere were fantastic. It were full of old drunks, old prostitutes, and gay people.

SS: Brilliant!

SO: And it were fantastic. I mean, if you wasn’t in there by eight o’clock at night you could not get in. The bar staff used to dance on the bar with tambourines, it were fantastic, it were just something you – I mean for a young lad of 19 it were like, ‘My god! What’s this?!’ And then, I were still into punk, I went to see Adam Ant in Leeds and we went to a club called, up the road from the New Penny, called the F Club, which turned into Bananas, a gay bar, and we went in there and I went all fully made up, looking like a Hazel O’Connor out of Breaking Glass, went in there and – went in the New Penny, quite by accident, and it were drag queens behind the bar and they went ‘oh darling, what would you like? Fresh meat’, and I’m like [pulls face?], with me brother me uncle and two other people, straight people that I know, and I were trying to be like [titters]. And me brother just turned round to me and said, ‘oh you’re gonna remember this place, aren’t you?’ Two week later, I were in there. And I never went to Wakefield again, I went to Leeds because – but, in that day, in Leeds, all there were was, there was the New Penny, and the old Red Lion, all the rest of the Leeds gay village part of it were all derelict, it were all just literally burnt-out warehouses and empty, empty shops, and prostitutes on Call Lane, that’s all there was. Basically, normally, wherever you get gay people you usually get prostitutes, they all hang round together cos dregs of society, as the people say.

But, I used to – all my mates used to say, ‘how dare you, how can you go to Leeds on your own, I don’t understand how you dare do it’. Because I mean, in them days, it was so rough in 1980s, it was so rough 1980, ’81, and I went, ‘I have a ball’. And I used to go in all the old prostitute pubs, and all the old prostitutes used to be fab; I used to go in’t Duncan and everywhere in Leeds, and it used to be brilliant, and they all took me under their wing, literally all took me under their wing and I thought it were fantastic, it were really great, because – what I do as a living now, how gobby and loud I am, then I was so shy and so quiet. I mean, I can always remember when I used to go in the New Penny, when I first started going in there, it took me about six month to talk to anybody proper. I used to go t’bar, order me drink and I used to stand in a corner all on me own because I felt so out of place, cos everybody knew each other and I were just like this little nobody that anybody wanted to talk to. And then I got to know a lad over there called Trevor who worked behind’t bar, and I mean he were one of these typical outrageous hairdressers who used to do Viv Nicholson’s hair, he were outrageously – a drag queen, as well, and I used to think drags were just [sigh], I used to think it were just so tacky – really hated drag queens, and found out he were a drag queen and it were just like ‘oh’. And it got to the stage where I started seeing Trevor and he used to put his wigs on me and style his wigs while I were in t’shop. In front of all t’old age pensions I used to be sat there in these wigs and things. And I can always remember one day I went in from work and they were doing Viv Nicolson’s hair, and he says, ‘oh, make Viv a cuppa tea’, and I says, ‘she can make her bloody own, I’ve been at work all day’, and she just looked and started laughing. And oh, some of the stuff, I mean she were fantastic, some of the stuff she used to come out with, when she first won t’pools and stuff, she were telling us all t’stories, she were fantastic, but she were brilliant, but I just said, ‘she could make her own bloody cuppa tea, I’d been working all day, and while she’s at it she can make me one’. But all I got off Trevor were, ‘how dear you! Do you know what it is’ – I knew who she was [laughs]

But he always used to say, you ought to do, cos I used to work his routines out for him as well, and he always used to say you ought to do drag, and I says, ‘you will never ever get me in a frock’. I says, never, it will never happen – never. And I mean, I vowed for years and years, and then – me and Trevor split up and I ended up living on me own back in Wakefield, five minutes away from me mam and dad, and me mam used to say, ‘oh bring your washing down’, and she used to make all me tea, so I never used to have to pay anything or owt, it were fab [laughs]. But she says, ‘oh, it be all right’ and then it got to the stage where I got so down and so depressed and I did literally try to kill meself, at one point, and ended more or less sectioned – I was stuck in me flat two month, with me mam and dad shouting through t’letterbox, me mam crying at me, saying, ‘you’re gonna have to pull yourself together’, and I just couldn’t do it, it just got to the stage where I just could not do it. I just though, ‘this is just pointless’, because everything seemed to be going wrong all t’time and it’s not, I couldn’t move on. Dead-end job after dead-end job, and I thought, ‘nowt’s happening here’. Dead-end relationships. And I also got done again for cottaging, so it were like – that were in Leeds – and it were like, I just thought, ‘this is just getting worse and worse’.

And then… I found out about the Dolphin opening, which decided it was gonna be a gay bar, even though it had been underground since t’50s, but I’d never, only been in a coupla times, and it decided to open as a full gay bar – Stuart Colville opened it as a gay bar. Went in there a couple of times with me sister. Started talking to a few people. Sooty behind t’bar and that, got to know him. And I were like, [whiny voice] ‘oh well’. And one Christmas, they had a Christmas party where you had to pay tickets on Christmas Day to go in, and me sister said, for Christmas Day, she said, ‘here, I’ve bought you a ticket. You will get to talk to people, you will bloody get out of your shell and get to know people – you’re gonna have to do it’. She says, ‘I’ve bought you a ticket, we’ll drop you off’, she says, ‘if you need picking up at t’end of t’night, phone us up, we’ll pick you back up’ – her and her husband. So I went, [sullen] ‘oh alright’. So I went in there, and I mean, I’d been in there a few times but I were still didn’t really know anybody. Got talking to people, with it being Christmas Day and I ended up with this fella that worked at Asda coming home with me, and we had a really good time [laughs], but then it got – well I started going in there every week, got to know, getting to know people, and I’m thinking, ‘oh, I like this’. And then there used to be, they used to resident drag – there used to be Miss Fudge and Stella, when I used to go in.

SS: When was that, can I ask?

SO: Oh, that’ll have been… late eight-, no it were in t’90s, yeah it’d have been in 90s would that by then. But it were early 90s, and I used to go in. But the problem was, because I worked all my routines out, cos it were typically old-type drag that they used to do, but they were fantastic, both of them. Stella were a bit wooden. She won’t like me saying that, but she was. But she had to come on stage dressed as Cher and she were like [makes noise], doing Cher, and I used, I always used to upstage her in front of t’stage and it used to – every time she used to come out on stage and see me stood there, she used to be like, ‘what’s he doing in again? I’m not going on if he’s there’. And it used to be, ‘kick him out, kick him out!’ And this carried on for quite a while and I just used to look, and everybody said, ‘you ought to do this, y’know, you ought to do it’.

And then, Stuart left Dolphin and then Nigel took over, who had it right until it closed. At one particular World AIDS Day, I think it were t’first World AIDS Day since he’d took over, he’d got Adrian James on, God bless him, he were fantastic – and he’d got him on, and he says, and everybody says, ‘we ought to get Steven to do it’. And I says, ‘I’ll only do one number in drag’, I says, ‘if I raise £70’. I says – that were 1993, ’94 – I says, ‘I’ll only do one number if I get £70’. I ended up with hundred and odd pound, so I thought, ‘damn!’ So I though, ‘damn, I’m gonna have to do it now’. So I went round t’charity shops and bought this – I mean, there’s still photos of me on the first night I did it – this awful red tie-dyed kaftan and Miss Fudge’s blonde wig that she killed me for borrowing, but and I thought, ‘urgh’, and I did a song called ‘Picking a Chicken’, and nobody’d get up on stage with me to do it and it were two and a half minutes long and nobody’s get up on stage to do this ‘Picking a Chicken’ with me song, me singing ‘Picking a chicken with me’, and so I had to get this old man up – who turned out to be called Zelda, who I’ll mention him as I go along – but and it were like, oh, but I thought, ‘this is absolute torture’. Then at the end – I did the song, and then at the end of it I went round with a bucket, more money, and at the end of it, that were it, I thought, ‘fantastic, I can go get changed and get drunk now’ – get totally shit-faced, basically, cos I were like that, literally shaking like a leaf when I got off stage, and… got off stage, Adrian James got back on stage and said, ‘right anybody who wants to throw money can throw money at me’. Unfortunately there were a few people in there that I don’t think quite liked him who threw money at him, and one of ‘em hit him in t’eye and it were like typical drag queen, ‘oh my god, I could be blinded! I could be blinded I can’t go on!’.

So Nigel just turned round to me and said, ‘well you’ll do it won’t you?’ and I says, ‘do what?’, and he says, ‘host rest o’ t’night’, and I says, ‘I’ve done one number Nigel, and I’ve never even spoken in a microphone at all in me life’, I says, ‘so it’s never gonna happen, never gonna happen’. ‘But I’m stuck, you’re gonna have to. I’ll give you a case of ‘ooch if you do it’ [laughs] I thought, ‘oh, a case of ‘ooch! – Go on then, I’ll do it’, I says, but he says, ‘Phyllis – ‘, the resident drag queen DJ, who now lives in Gran Canaria – he says, ‘oh I’ll give you a hand, don’t worry over it’, and were the year Lady Diana died. By the end of the night, how I didn’t get crucified, cos then by the end of the night I’d drunk a case of ‘ooch and all we were doing were doing jokes about Lady Diana, and you know what – and at that particular time she were like Saint Diana, wasn’t she? And you know what homos were like, it were like ‘oh my god’, it were like [laughs] so I walked off stage, totally forgot about it.

I worked for Stuart then, who had the pub those days which were the Freedom Bar. And then, some friends of mine who had the Graziers Arms just round the corner, on Market Street, approached me when, I used to be t’glass collector there, approached me and said, ‘would you like to work for us?’ And I says, ‘well, as what?’ And he says – I were thinking behind t’bar, cos I worked behind t’bars as well – he says, ‘well, we’re having a refurb and we’d like you to be sort of the compere drag queen’. I says, ‘well I’ve only ever done it that once’. He says, ‘yeah, but we thought you were really funny’, he says, ‘we wouldn’t say you were that bad you were good!’ [laughs] But, thanks. He says, ‘but we thought you were really funny’, but he says, ‘what we’re looking for is more of a Funny Girls type thing, show type thing’ – and I’d never been to Funny Girls in Blackpool in me life, and he says, ‘well, would you do it?’ So I says, ‘well’, I says, ‘I’ll have a go’. And then Stuart Colville, that I used to work for down at t’Freedom Bar, said, ‘well I’ll give you a Wednesday night doing a 70s and 80s night DJing’. Well they came in to see me first night and it were absolutely diabolical, cos I wouldn’t speak on t’microphone, there were gaps in between t’songs, it were like, it were absolute murder. I bet they thought, ‘what have we, what have we said we’ll get involved in here’, it were terrible. I just couldn’t do it.

And then summat happened one Sunday with Stuart – cos they used to have cabaret on every Sunday – and summat happened where he couldn’t do it, so they said, ‘oh get Steven to do it’ – by then I were Miss Connie Lingus, but they said – originally I were gonna be Miss Tanya Cheeks, but I don’t know why I changed it to Connie Lingus but – they said, ‘get Connie to do it’, so but I says, ‘yeah but I won’t talk on t’microphone, I just can’t talk on t’microphone’. And I had to fill in that night, and I always remember t’first song I ever played were Cher’s ‘Believe’ [laughs] Always remember it were Cher’s ‘Believe’, so that were definitely the first song I ever played. And I were like [sighs], this is gonna be murder, but I really enjoyed it. But I still wouldn’t talk on the microphone. So when it came to introducing the act, the bar staff had to get up and do it. And then, a week after, Stuart says to me, he says, ‘the problem is, you’re listening to yourself’, he says, ‘you’re listening to yourself as it’s coming back over t’mic- as it’s coming back over t’speakers’, he says, ‘and it never sounds good when you listen to yourself’, he says, ‘the tip is’, he says, ‘pick on somebody you know, in the crowd, and talk to them like, slag ‘em off or talk to ‘em like you would talking to ‘em’. Well that, so the week after, when he made me do it again, he says – the lad I were sort of seeing at the time was in there, and I thought, ‘right’ this – oh god, by the end of the night, by the end of the night we were falling out in lumps because all I did were pick on him all night over t’microphone [laughs] I thought, ‘well I know you, so I’ll just pick on you’ [laughs], and I don’t think we were ever right after that, really, it wasn’t long before we split up [laughs].

But that were it then, once I’d done that there were no stopping me, I just ended up this gobby – but I must admit, I mean, Madam Connie has saved my life in more ways than one, because I wouldn’t have been the person I am now, even out of a frock, I would not have been the person I am now, nowhere near. But, then so yeah I ended up working at the Graziers, which were closed down for being a brothel, years ago. So when they reopened it they had it done out like a Victorian brothel and, they even had like a dummy in the window upstairs with a red light behind it so it looked like a prostitute in a window. So I thought well, so they said well, ‘do you think you should change your name?’ I says, ‘what do you mean?’ Well, ‘we think you should change it to, because you’re in charge of the pub, the entertainment, you should become the Madam’, so I says, ‘fair enough’, so I changed it to Madam Connie Lingus and the rest is history, really, I mean, now it’s Madam Connie, I’ve shortened it cos it’s just the problem with using the Lingus bit at the end [laughs]

It were just, it were one of these things that I never planned on doing at all, and it just snowballed out of – and then when the Graziers shut, it closed – we’d all planned a big massive millennium party for 1999/2000 and it closed the 4th of December because the brewery messed ‘em about so they walked out and closed it. I’d got this fantastic, massive big frock, with a big ruffle and everything and it were like, well this is all gonna be wasted cos I’m not gonna be working, so I went out New Year’s Eve down to Dolphin, which had then become Zeus, and – we went in, I were on stage nearly all bloody night, ended up with Stella, who by then I’d become very big friends with – at one time we hated each other because of me dancing about in front of her act [laughs] But now we’re like, we’re like soul sisters, literally, I could rip her soul out. But I ended up there 2000, doing that. By then I thought, that’s it, just sack it now, because I’m not gonna do it any more, I’ve finished at Graziers and I’d got a cupboard full of bloody big frocks and that I couldn’t even fit in the cupboard, and I wanted to cram ‘em in and shoving ‘em down cos they were all big fishtails and God knows what else.

And then Nigel turned round and said, ‘would you like to come and work for me?’ I says, ‘well, not really’, because at the particular time then his partner that he were working with, his business partner, I didn’t not get on with, I’d been barred twice from t’pub – we just did not get on. So I says, ‘no’, he says, ‘well I’ve actually bought that person out’, he says, so he says, ‘will you come and work for me?’ I says, ‘go on then’. So in between that then he also, Craig asked me to work there for two week as a cleaner to fill in cos the cleaner had left. I ended up working there 15 year. Because I just never left. I ended up running the kitchen, I ended up behind the bar, I ended up arranging all the entertainment.

But I mean, it were fantastic times at Zeus, absolutely fantastic – some of the best times I’ve ever had in my life, and it was something that I never thought that I’d be able to do because the drag queen they had there, Phyllis, who left to go work in Gran Canaria, he were legendary in Wakefield, legendary. He owned Wakefield drag scene, and I don’t – I says, ‘there’s no way I’m going to step into his shoes’. And they had a lesbian DJ on called Trixie Firecracker for a few year. So I started doing Friday nights, just doing’t odd bit. And she kept wanting me to do Saturdays, I says, ‘no, no, I don’t wanna mess wit’ entertainment, I don’t wanna be introducing t’entertainment and doing anything else’. And it were like, and one day she phoned in sick, and halfway through, all of a sudden, I looked up and there she is in front of the thing, and she went […]. Oh she were fantastic were Trixie, she were just one of these typical, [gravelly voice] ‘ee, y’all right girls?’ She used to do very fab Marge Simpson impressions. But she says, ‘well now you’ve done it once, you can do it again’, and I can also remember finishing the show, by singing ‘The Show is Over’ and swinging me false tits over me head [laughs] I just says, I said, ‘there you go, that’s final’ I mean, when it got to the stage, they used to have a dressing room on t’stage and it always used to look like one of these European toilets, where literally, you stand behind it.

And, one particular night, I used to finish off with, I used to finish off with Oliver, you know Oliver, going ‘oom pah pah, oom pah pah, that’s how it goes’ – I used to do that but I used to stand on t’speaker by t’thing and Nigel used to shit his self when I used to do that cos he used to think, if you’d fall off… And then one particular night I finished off with an old punk song, a Wayne County song called ‘If You Don’t Wanna Fuck Me Baby, Fuck Off’. And my other half then, and that I’m with now, that I’m married to, Liam, I mean, it were like he were in rapture cos I were doing this punk song cos he’s an old punk rocker. And I thought, I’m looking and I’m looking at t’dressing room and they used to have some ladders behind it and I’m thinking, ‘hmmm’, and so it gets to’t instrumental bit, all of a sudden I disappears and next thing you know is that I’m sat on top of’t dressing room, swinging me legs about with, just in me bra and tights, wi’ me, swinging me knockers about. And jumped back down, ripped ‘em all off, wiped all me make-up off and just stood there basically in just me tights. The whole crowd went absolutely barmy, but then it got to the stage where every week they expected me to do that. But it, I mean it is so ‘umbling and fantastic, because – the amount of people that’s come up to me, I meant specially when Bretton Hall College were here, and all the students used to come in and say, ‘we used to get such a feeling on a Saturday night, knowing we were gonna have such a good night because you were on stage’. And it got to the stage where I used to end up with the stage covered in all Bretton Hall students all dancing about and seeing ‘I Am What I Am’ and, and Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’. They used to love me to do Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ but I used to change the words to ‘you can lick my ’ole again’ [laughs] But it used to be fantastic, it really was, I mean you couldn’t beat them nights. And the amount of people that are still, even now, mention it… it’s really fantastic, and I think, ‘yeah but, it’s only me’, you know what I mean? I just feel like it’s still just being me. But it is fantastic, it really is.

SS: And can you tell me about when it closed – why it closed, or your thoughts on that at all?

SO: The reason, I mean the reasons Zeus closed was it was just Wakefield was trying to get all trendy, they were gonna build the Trinity Walk, and Nigel had more or less had enough of it really, he took, he’d taken over Downtown over t’road, which were run by Stuart and Zelda who I mentioned earlier, which I used to work for them as well. And there was so much bitchiness and backbiting going on, I mean, for a gay scene, such a minority who should stick together, they literally stabbed, they literally stabbed each other in the backs, it was silly, it were really silly. I mean, it got to the stage where, I mean, I can always remember when Zeus first opened and Nigel took it over, and he made his staff sign a contract to say they would not go drinking in any of the other gay bars. And I wouldn’t sign it when I first started working there, I says, ‘nobody tells me where I can go drink’ – this is the stage it got to, it got really stupid. And I – like I say, I worked for Stuart, and then when I started working for Nigel, it were like, ‘you said you never would’, and then he tried to say I’d stabbed them in’t back and, this is just getting silly, it got so bitchy. And then Stuart and Zelda left Downtown and Nigel decided take it over, he opened it for a month while they were refurbing Zeus and then somebody else took it over and it just didn’t work but, I mean, they used to work together at one, y’know, like with one being over’t road from another, and it used to be really good.

And then Nigel decided that – because he knew he was coming out of Zeus, he came out of Downtown and changed the name to Odyssey, to tie in with the Roman theme, and so then he employed Miss Orrie from Leeds, which – Miss Orrie is fantastic, she’s one of me all-time heroes is Miss Orrie, I mean me and Miss Orrie get on like that – but, and we worked together fantastic, we did two or three prides in Wakefield, which I think will probably go down in ‘istory, some of them prides we did – there’s photos everywhere, with it in t’Express and everything but at that time it were still at quite a good high, but then Nigel starting getting grief because the New Union opened and they wouldn’t work together, so it ended up back like it was before. The New Union took a lot of his customers and Nigel wouldn’t work ‘em and it just really got stupid, so he ended up losing a lot of customers and then the brewery decided that maybe it was time to change, they were gonna change it into a gastropub, so he had to come out of it, kept Odyssey on, but I mean – oh it were, it were heart-wrenching, to leave that place, when it shut down it were heart-wrenching. And I always remember, the last night, I mean the last night we decorated it out to try and keep people in and then when it got to the last night where it, cos people still weren’t coming in, and we announced it were the last night, it were absolutely packed solid, and it were just like old times, it were fantastic. And everybody were coming up and saying, ‘oh we’ve had a great night!’ And all I felt like saying were, ‘well fuck you!’ basically, y’know, I felt like saying, ‘it’s always been like this, you know it’s always been like this, you’ve been coming in for years, but you left it’. And it were a fantastic night, I mean we Stella on, we had Sam Buca on, we had a fantastic time; we had a few singers on, it were brilliant. I mean the last, the last number has gone down in ‘istory really, in fact it’s been taken off YouTube cos it were that rude! [laughs]

SS: Tell me more, tell me more!

SO: The last number were – me and Stella, cos me and Stella used to do drag bingo there and us drag bingo were infamous, absolutely infamous, because – I can be a bitch, but Stella can be a total bastard! And people used to come in, and I even used to stand and I used to be like – some of the things she used to come out with, I’d think, ‘oh my god!’ But, so the last night, obviously there were me, Stella and Sam, who were married to Stella at the time, and Sam’s not exactly the most PC either, so I thought this is gonna be an absolutely terrible night, and – I were dreading it, me, cos I were just didn’t want to do the last night because I just didn’t want it to close. I didn’t want to do it, but they [?] about it now, but I just didn’t want it to ‘appen, and – my other half, I mean I only live round t’corner here, he actually paid for a taxi for me to go to work [laughs] cos I were that upset, and he says, ‘you’ll be alright’, and he says, ‘I’m not coming in’. I went, ‘what do you mean?’ He says, ‘no, it’s cos’, he says, ‘if I come in, it’ll set you off’. I were like, I were fuming, me.

When I got there, all me family were there, me sister, me brother, everybody were there, and he turned up, in the end, but it was fantastic, it really was, but I mean – the final number were just – Stella says, ‘well we gonna do for final number?’ I says, ‘well we should do Petula Clark: ‘The Show Is Over’, final number’. ‘Alright then’. Well we used to have a buffing machine in’t dressing room that we used to buff t’floor wi’, but Stella had broke that by peeing in it one night [laughs] so he’d blown it up, so we couldn’t use it. I says, ‘oh we can’t use t’buffer machine cos you’ve peed in it one night and blow it up!’ So he says, ‘what we gonna do?’ So I says, ‘don’t worry over it, I’ll fill a mop bucket full o’ water and pretend to throw it over you’. So she says, ‘oh alright then’. So she come out all glamourous, Shirley Bassey-type, singing ‘The Show Is Over’. I were stood in’t back thinking, by then I were literally about 27 stone in weight by then, cos I’d piled a lotta weight on, and I’m stood there in this big like flesh-coloured bra, covered in hair – I hadn’t shaved me chest or anything. I thought, ‘what am I gonna do’? So I stripped down to me tights, just the bra, and just the pinny, and the mop bucket, no wig, full make-up. Walked out behind him, and he were like – and I’m stood there wi’t mop bucket full o’ cold water, I’d filled it with cold water – I promised it would always be warm if I did throw it – so I filled it wi’ cold water, and he stood there and he’s like, ‘The show is over –‘ and he got to the end, and I’m mopping t’stage but I’m also – considering I’d nothing else, in fact I’d nothing on actually, no tights at all, just the pinny – decided at the end of the act to bend down and wipe the back of the stage with, so from the back it was just like a – everybody were just stood there like, with everything dangling down, the balls the lot – me sister expected it anyway, she knows what I’m like. And somebody had been, and they were all filming it and they were all like that – and it got to’t end and she’s – ‘The show is over and here are my –‘ and I just picked up this mop bucket full of cold water and literally just – over’t top of his head. He went absolutely hysterical, absolutely, I mean it were cold water as well, very cold water. The whole crowd went absolutely barmy, but they didn’t expect anything less, really. He were that annoyed that he went into the kitchen and deep fried a pair of my shoes that I had specially made [laughs] Deep fried ‘em! But oh, yeah, I mean it were fantastic, I mean at the end of the night, I mean it was so good because I mean we all used to have like Zeus pins and we had a stack of them and we just give them all out as souvenirs, it was the end of an era, it really was, and I don’t really think it’s ever been t’same since, it really hasn’t, but it were such a fantastic night. But yeah.

SS: Great memories.

SO: It will go down in ‘istory! [laughs]

SS: And can you tell me a little bit about since then, obviously that was an end of an era, literally – what about the scene now and kind of how you feel about it.

SO: Well, it’s a bit weird now, because I mean, after Zeus I carried on working in Odyssey, cos Orrie left and went back to the Birdcage, to Funny Girls in Leeds and got a lot more offers and did a lot of television work, so I took over her part and went over there, which was still fine, but it wasn’t as good and you just couldn’t – it were a weird place was Odyssey because it were long, it were like a long corridor and you just couldn’t really, there were nowhere really to dance about and – for me to dance about anyway, it were fine for them. And then there were still t’New Union and there were t’Rainbow as well.

And then Odyssey ended up with this company that started running it, a gay company that, well, basically teenagers who’d set up a company, and they ran it into the ground, literally ran it – which to me, totally killed the Wakefield scene, because they literally just ran it into the ground. They tret the staff, the DJs – by then there were me, Madam Nicole, Glitz, who were all up-and-coming, I mean because we took ‘em under us wings, we sort, I mean Glitz and Madam Nicole – Nicole’s my daughter, as she says, Glitz is Stella’s daughter, Glitz is evil but she’s fantastic, she’s making it big in Leeds at t’moment, she’s fantastic. But it were just like – I don’t know, they just tret us all like dirt and it just got to the stage where, I mean I went in to work one particular night and he says, ‘oh by the way, you do realise this is your last night, don’t you?’ I went, ‘no, I didn’t’. And they literally – and they sent me a letter, the next day when I got home I got a letter through t’post saying – I can’t remember what they were called, what t’company were – ‘we’ve decided to terminate your employment because we’ve got people who can do your job better than you, that work for us’. I mean, this were the way – and I thought, ‘right that’s it’, I thought.

And at a particular time then, Rainbow had just changed hands, it were Katy and Jo that were running it, and Jude, and I showed – and I used to drink in there – and I went round, showed them t’letter and they said, ‘well that’s disgusting’, they said, ‘would you like to work for us?’ So I says, ‘well, yeah if you can offer me hours and that, a few hours and that’, and I only expected being part-time but I ended up working there and I ended up doing’t Camp Bingo round there wi’ Nicole, which Nicole were good but she weren’t as bad as Stella, so we were alright [laughs]. But, and then it went on from there. And then Odyssey kept asking us back, and me and Nic – Nicole – just kept saying, ‘well’ – we kept going back, I don’t know why, but then they decided – they just did a runner in t’end.

And then I started working up at Westgates up in Wakefield for Paul, which used to be Yates’s, in drag every now and again, DJing, but the gay scene just seems to have petered out, it just, I mean – I don’t know – I honestly think we’ve made it a bit too easy for us selves. We wanted equality, and we got equality, but with the equality also comes the fact of you don’t really need gay bars anymore, and I think – Leeds is thriving. But Wakefield, because of the bitchiness and backbiting, just hasn’t carried on. To me it works in cycles, though, because I think one time it used to be Wakefield, then it used to be Leeds, then it used to be Wakefield again, so you never know, it might come back but, I mean I still work at down here at the New Union, which I still enjoy – I enjoy it a lot. But there’s just, no gay scene really anymore in Wakefield, which is – I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, because it were always good and it were always entertaining, hence the reason why you still get lots of straight women more than anything coming – well, straight men as well, especially in parties and stag nights – who still come in gay bars cos they know they can have a laugh. I mean, I don’t really wear a drag anymore, at all, because there’s just no money in it, and it’s just not, it’s not as – there’s no reason for it anymore. I mean it’s more of a ridicule thing, I mean your Fanny and Bacardi’s and that and that’s fine but that’s not aimed at a gay scene, it’s aimed at a straight scene and, it’s just – I could still be just as big a bitch out of a frock as I am in it [laugh]. But yeah, it’s just a shame, it just seems to have – I wouldn’t says it’s gone, but it’s petered out a bit at the moment and it’s a bit, it’s a bit sad.

SS: So it might come back – is there any chance Madam Connie might return?

SO: I never say never. Yes, I have said Madam Connie will come back, definitely, she will definitely be back.

SS: I’m there to see that!

SO: She’ll definitely be back, don’t worry, we’ll advertise. She will definitely be back.

SS: I’ll be on the front row. Can I just ask as well, just to kind of wrap up, is there anything that you would like to add or say or just anything or any further thoughts at all? A difficult question!

SO: I don’t know really, I just – in a way I’m just glad that I were there to be part of it. I mean, I know if sounds daft, because I mean, really you think somebody from the 1950s and 60s would be saying that, and believe me, I mean, it’s really weird when people, cos I mean, I don’t class meself, I’m 55 year old and I don’t class meself as 55 year old, and people who come up and say that – I mean even some of the younger ones now, I mean, they do appreciate what has gone on in the past, and they come up and say, ‘well if it weren’t for people like you’, and I’m thinking, ‘no, if it weren’t for people like Eddie that I know and people like that the older’, and then I’m think, ‘ooo maybe they’re right, really’.

SS: No, they are right, it is.

SO: And I’m thinking, well and all the struggles I went through in 1978, coming out and all the things about being in the papers and that, but I just don’t think about it wi’ me, and I mean, my other ‘alf sums it up a lot better, Liam, he always turns round – and I always say, ‘I aren’t political at all’, well he says, ‘you’re one of the most political gay people I know’, he says, because he says, ‘you get on your ‘igh ‘orse more times than you realise’, and says, ‘and you won’t let’, he says, ‘you’re like a dog with a bone’, he says, ‘if somebody says something you will not let it drop’.

SS: Fantastic!

SO: I don’t think we should, it’s our right – we fought for that right and we need that.

SS: It definitely is, and thank you for just being visible and for fighting back and –

SO: I mean, I never thought, come 2017 that I could say that I’ve got, that I’m married and go an ‘usband and got the equality that I wanted, that we wanted to have. But like I say, unfortunately I think we ‘ave hit ourselves in the foot a little bit but at least we have got that right. There’s still that prejudice there, there’s still a hell of a lot of prejudice there, but we can now got the right to say, ‘we are here, and we’re queer, and get used to it’.

SS: I want to thank you very much.

SO: You’re okay. I might’ve waffled but [laughs]